The Old and the New Collide in “Crazy Rich Asians”

                Image courtesy of joblo.com

Film critics knew it would happen. We just didn’t know when. We all understood that is was time overdue for a mega box office Asian film that put Asians as the main characters and spoke to the growing number of wealthy Asians globally.It has been 25 years since the US has had an Asian film—“The Joy Luck Club”—with a majority Asian cast. And though “The Joy Luck Club” had a stellar Asian cast and did well at the box office, Hollywood did not really stand up and take notice and nor did “The Joy Luck Club” spur Hollywood to invest dollars in other Asian films with a mainly Asian cast.

                Image courtesy of vanityfair.com

That said; 25 years after “The Joy Luck Club” things have changed. Asians are the largest group of new millionaires and billionaires globally. And “Crazy Rich Asians” reflect this new wealth demographic. Though most Asians are not wealthy, in fact, globally, most Asians live below the poverty level; this fact did not stop Hollywood from producing a cinematic look in the luxury lifestyles of the Asian one percent—and in “Crazy Rich Asian’s” case, Asians from a former British colony, Singapore.“Crazy Rich Asians,” a romantic comedy based on Kevin Kwan’s novel, centers on Chinese American Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a New York University economics professor, who travels with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Rachel does not know that her boyfriend’s family is the wealthiest and most esteemed family in Singapore.

                  Image courtesy of variety.com

Excited about visiting Asia for the first time, Rachel is not prepared for the rigors of Singapore’s elite class and in particular the expectations of Nick’s disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh). Feeling out of place, Rachel reaches out to college roommate Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina), whose family is a part of Singapore’s garish nouveau riche, for support and a quick lesson in the morays of Singapore’s elite class. What ensues is a layered romantic comedy that gives insight into the East meets West culture of Singapore and a universal love story about the clash of culture and class.Director Jon M. Chu gives audiences an inside peek into how very rich Asians live, outside of the US, and how Western culture has permeated Asian countries. And though this film is very funny, particularly the scenes with Awkwafina upstaging, in a good way, almost every actor in sight, Jon M. Chu touches on some very important elements of Asian culture that, in spite of Western assimilation, has not been uprooted. Michelle Yeoh represents those old world values; values that contradict Western attitudes toward individualism and personal achievement. Rachel, who was born in the US, is pitied against these old world standards and most find a way to adapt.

            Image courtesy of nymag.com

At first glance, “Crazy Rich Asians” is formulaic and could be about any wealthy ethnic group grappling with fading, old world values and the inchoate morays that can accompany great wealth. However, at closer examination, Chu is asking audiences to re-examine neo-liberal concepts of wealth and status. In this way, “Crazy Rich Asians” has more depth and texture than more recent films of this ilk.Interestingly, Jon M. Chu displays an excessive amount of the Western influences of decadence, greed, and individualism compared to his examination old world Asian values of family, saving face, and sacrifice. Perhaps, Chu is saying that these decadent Western influences don’t work so well outside of Western countries, making folks a little schizoid and crazy. Or, at a deeper level Chu is demonstrating that old social norms die a hard death or never really disappear.

           Image courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com

Whatever Chu’s motivation, “Crazy Rich Asians” is a lot of fun and a great addition to the end of summer blockbuster season. Standout performances, and there were many, include Awkwafina’s (Goh Peik Lin) over-the-top, hip hop–embellished portrayal of Rachel’s college roommate; Michelle Yeoh’s dogmatic, steely portrayal of Nick Young’s mother; Constance Wu as the Chinese-American girlfriend caught between two worlds; Lisa Lu as Nick’s stoic grandmother, and Ken Jeong as Goh Peik Lin’s nouveau riche dad.”Crazy Rich Asians” opens nationally on August 15.

—William S. Gooch

Speak Your Mind

*

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterCheck Our FeedVisit Us On Pinterest
Copyright © 2012-2018 | Fashion Reverie Publications, LLC - All Rights Reserved